Baa Baa Black Sheep (later syndicated as Black Sheep Squadron) is an American period military drama television series that aired on NBC.
Its premise was based on the experiences of United States Marine Corps aviator Greg Boyington and his World War II “Black Sheep Squadron”.
The series was created and produced by Stephen J. Cannell.
The opening credits read: “In World War II, Marine Corps Major Greg ‘Pappy’ Boyington commanded a squadron of fighter pilots. They were a collection of misfits and screwballs who became the terrors of the South Pacific. They were known as the Black Sheep.”
Major Greg “Pappy” Boyington is the commanding officer of VMF-214, a Marine squadron of “misfit” fighter pilots based on the Solomon Islands campaign and Bougainville campaign from 1943 to 1945 during World War II. Pappy often intercedes in altercations of the pilots at the base, but everyone seems to pull together when they are assigned missions in the air. Pappy likes to drink and fight a lot when not flying missions. He owns a Bull Terrier named “Meatball” – which he claims belongs to General Moore to get the dog on the base against regulations in Flying Misfits, but General Moore says he “wouldn’t own an ugly mutt like that.”
The series premise was very loosely based on a portion of the real-life military career of Gregory Boyington, known as “Pappy” due to his “advanced” age compared to the younger pilots under his command. (He was 30 when he took command of VMF-214, but in the series pilot, he is stated to be 35.) Boyington, who was a technical adviser for the series, commented that the show was “fiction based on reality” and that no regular character in the series except for himself actually existed. Although in his book of the same name, there is a General “Nuts” Moore who has similar characteristics to General Moore in the series. Also in the book is Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Smoak, on whom Colonel Lard is based. Lard has almost the same animosity for Major Boyington in the TV series as Smoak does in the book. In the documentary film Pappy Boyington Field, Robert Conrad shares personal insight about Pappy from their time together during the television series. The squadron has many successful combat missions using their Vought F4U Corsair planes against the experienced Japanese pilots using their Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter planes. The combat missions took place around the Japanese military base in Rabaul during his September 1943 to January 1944 tour of duty.
Pappy was an ace pre-World War II combat pilot and has the most air victories, or “kills”, of any pilot in the squadron. In the pilot episode, Boyington has six kills from his combat tour in China before World War II with the Flying Tigers. His count climbs into the mid-20’s as the series progresses. The real-life Boyington had 14 kills in 32 days during his first tour of duty with VMF-214, and finished with 28 confirmed victories.
The TV show’s squadron is based on the fictional island of Vella la Cava. There is an actual island called Vella Lavella in the New Georgia Group of the Solomon Islands, but in the initial episode “Flying Misfits,” Vella la Cava was represented on an aviation sectional chart by the real Kolombangara Island. Under Boyington’s command VMF-214 flew out of Barakoma Airfield on Vella Lavella during the Solomon Islands campaign.
Popular character John “Hutch” Hutchinson (Joey Aresco) was killed off in the episode Last One for Hutch and replaced as chief mechanic by Master Sergeant Andy Micklin (Red West), who had joined the squadron a few episodes earlier in Devil in the Slot.
Baa Baa Black Sheep Series
- Series 01:
- Episode 01: The Flying Misfits, Part 01.
- Episode 02: The Flying Misfits, Part 02.
- Episode 03: Best Three Out of Five.
- Episode 04: Small War.
- Episode 05: High Jinx.
- Episode 06: Prisoners of War.
- Episode 07: Presumed Dead.
- Episode 08: The Meatball Circus.
- Episode 09: Up for Grabs.
- Episode 10: Anyone for Suicide?
- Episode 11: New Georgia on My Mind.
- Episode 12: The Cat’s Whiskers.
- Episode 13: Love and War.
- Episode 14: The War Biz Warrior.
- Episode 15: The Deadliest Enemy of All, Part 01.
- Episode 16: The Deadliest Enemy of All, Part 02.
- Episode 17: Devil in the Slot.
- Episode 18: Five the Hard Way.
- Episode 19: The Last Mission Over Sengai.
- Episode 20: Trouble at Fort Apache.
- Episode 21: Poor Little Lambs.
- Episode 22: W*A*S*P*S.
- Episode 23: Last One for Hutch.
- Episode 24: The Fastest Gun.
- Series 02:
- Episode 01: Divine Wind.
- Episode 02: The 200 Pound Gorilla.
- Episode 03: The Hawk Flies on Sunday.
- Episode 04: Wolves in the Sheep Pen.
- Episode 05: Operation Stand-Down.
- Episode 06: Ten’ll Get You Five.
- Episode 07: Forbidden Fruit.
- Episode 08: Fighting Angels.
- Episode 09: The Iceman.
- Episode 10: Hotshot.
- Episode 11: The Show Must Go on … Sometimes.
- Episode 12: Sheep in the Limelight.
- Episode 13: A Little Bit of England.
Production & Filming Details
- Creator(s): Stephen J. Cannell.
- Narrator(s): Robert Conrad.
- Director(s): Alex Beaton, Robert Conrad, Larry Doheny, and Walter Doniger.
- Producer(s): Stephen J. Cannell and Phillip DeGuere.
- Music: Mike Post and Pete Carpenter.
- Cinematography: Edward R. Plante, H. John Penner, John Elsenbach, and Chuck Arnold.
- Editor(s): Jerry Dronsky and Harvey Stambler.
- Production: Stephen J. Cannell Productions and Universal Television.
- Distributor(s): NBC Universal Television Distribution.
- Original Network: NBC.
- Release Date: 21 September 1976 to 06 April 1978.
- Running Time: 60 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.